What Women Want To Say (Versus How Society Would Like Them To Say It)

Shutterstock
Shutterstock

It seems that any time a woman expresses a thought in a public space, it’s taken as a political statement. Women are attacked in comments sections and expected to speak for each other in everything they say. Share a personal experience, and some group will fly at you for making them feel excluded. Say something that implicates an imbalance with men, and watch men take it personally, cry about their own troubles, and tell us how we should express things to make sure we’re much less abrasive.

If the silencers had it their way, our thoughts and opinions would be diluted to the point where they’re barely recognizable anymore. We would spend all of our energy trying to preemptively appease anyone who could possibly be offended, and our words would lose all power. This is how it would look.

What you want to say:

“I hate that my appearance is the primary measure of my value to society.”

How society wants you to say it:

“Sometimes I feel like certain men, without intending to, place a disproportionate value on my appearance. It’s not that I think they only see me as one thing, exactly, but sometimes the words they say come off like my appearance is the only thing that matters. I mean, I totally get that they don’t mean to, and I’m not trying to be vain or ungrateful or anything. I do appreciate compliments. I know they’re just trying to be kind when they say nice things about me, and I know catcalls are just misguided. They don’t know any better! Men think they’re being sweet, and I should appreciate that. I know it’s really all in my head when I worry obsessively about how I look when I leave the house—or that I won’t let anyone see me without makeup—but I kind of wish I hadn’t been trained to feel that way, you know? Not by anyone in particular. I’m not blaming men, specifically, but it’s more like a big societal problem. Like, it’s so big I don’t even know how to fix it. I really can’t point any fingers. I’m definitely not trying to do that. I just wanted to say sometimes it feels kind of bad.”

What you want to say:

“It sucks that men have an easier time moving through the world than women.”

How society wants you to say it:

“I want to be clear, it’s not that things are disproportionately difficult for me overall. I’m middle class, and I’m white. I live in America, and I have a lot of freedoms that other people around the world don’t have. I’m also on the thinner side of average, so I don’t have to deal with the stereotypes and biases that go along with being overweight, which is an issue that affects all genders. I think it’s fair to say I’ve had a safe, comfortable upbringing, and I even have four of four living grandparents, so I’m not exactly familiar with strife, you know? Plus, I’m mostly straight, so I don’t have to deal with unfair judgment on account of my sexuality. And I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to have to go to war or to have the burden of masculinity in a society that has clearly turned the tables on traditional measures of manliness, leaving a whole generation of men—and boys in particular—somewhat adrift. I really don’t know what that’s like, and I can’t pretend to. I understand that my problems are insignificant on a world scale and not unique on a narrower one, but I just wanted to point out that it seems like men still have an easier time moving ahead in business and reaping the rewards of life. And, right, maybe women aren’t behaving in the ‘correct’ ways to succeed, but I guess I’m just suggesting that maybe we could reevaluate what those ‘correct’ ways are. I mean, it would be nice, I guess, if femininity weren’t an automatic signal of weakness. I know it’s really ingrained, and nobody intends to think women are weak. And yes, we’ve made substantial strides in the past 100 years—to think, how recently we used to be unable to vote! It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the advances we’ve made. I just wanted to say that it still seems a little imbalanced.”

What you want to say:

“I don’t like [female politician or celebrity].”

How society wants you to say it:

“As a woman, I totally respect that this woman is succeeding in a public arena. That’s so great for all women. It truly is wonderful to see female success. I’m really happy for the progress we’re making, and I want to make sure everyone knows how extremely grateful I am to even have the opportunity to discuss a prominent female figure because we’ve come so far. It’s such a gift to have these women to look up to and discuss and offer opinions about. Even though I don’t like her, I want to make absolutely sure you know it’s not about a petty competition or jealousy. I know many people like to think that women are ‘catty’ about other women, so before I’ve expressed my distaste, I’ve prepared thorough and compelling reasons for not liking her work, which will hopefully prove to you that I’m not harboring resentment based on her success. Allow me to lay those reasons out for you now, and if they are not airtight, feel free to tell me that my opinion is invalid. I’ll gracefully accept, then, that I’m being unreasonable and am letting down all women with my misguided opinion.”

What you want to say:

“I want to be a stay-at-home mom.”

How society wants you to say it:

“I think it would be really nice to be able to spend my days raising my children, but that’s just me! It’s not a value judgment on other women and their choices to pursue careers while also raising their children or not having children at all. I understand that expressing an opinion about how I want to live my life will be taken as a reflection of how all women ought to live their lives because society likes to think that women, as a group, are all one thing and therefore cannot have divergent lifestyle choices without implicating discord among the ‘female community.’ And while I know that’s not intentional or fair, I do recognize it as a thing, so I want to make sure everyone knows that by saying I’d prefer to devote my time to motherhood, I’m not, in fact, saying that anyone else is wrong by choosing otherwise. I fully support the choices of other women, even if they go against my personal values system because I am really happy that women have the ability to make choices for themselves. I really appreciate that other women are pursuing career success and breaking glass ceilings so that women as a whole can progress toward more equal footing. That’s really something to behold, and I’m certainly not trivializing the commitment of those women by saying that I want to prioritize my children above my career. I even feel guilty that I’m not helping the forward progress of the movement, and I feel bad for reinforcing the stereotype of the man as the breadwinner. Ultimately, even though it’s a personal life choice, I just feel really bad that what I choose is in any way detrimental to the lives and happiness of other women, whom I intrinsically support, always.” Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Related

More From Thought Catalog